Ten things to do when writing a book
by Gwyn Ellis Pritchard
I do not consider myself to be an expert when it comes to writing novels and so in some respects I have no right to preach to accomplished writers. But, I offer the following observations and the lessons that I have learnt on my journey thus far.
- Firstly, answer these questions: Why are you writing the story? And who for?
Is it to make money or is it just because you have a story to tell and you are itching to tell it. Whatever your reasons are, primarily it should be written for you, for you own pleasure and personal pride. Once your story is completed, then you should ask yourself, “Is it good enough for a wider audience?” To answer this, you should seek the opinions of family and friends. If it is still looking positive then take the next brave step and approach a publisher.
- Decide upon the genre that the story is aimed at and ensure that the language used is appropriate.
If your story is aimed at young children, as my book is, then avoid innuendo and avoid adult themes. When reading the story to yourself try to imagine, the best you can, that you belong to the target age group. Finally, for books aimed at primary age children, seek out a primary school teacher willing to review your book. Ask them to pay particular attention to the suitability of the book to the intended age group.
- Prepare yourself to be criticised and grow from it.
Your story is very personal to you. You have poured your heart and soul into this story. You have given up your precious time for this story. You then share your story with loved ones, close friends and strangers, and some of the feedback you get says, “The book is awful, it makes no sense at all, it is disjointed, it is full of errors, the ending bears no relationship with the beginning and the ending, like the characters, are unbelievable.” Ouch, that would hurt. Do not respond too quickly. Step back, take in a deep breath, maybe some of what they are saying is right. Address every point made without being over defensive. Do not forget that these early editors are free, take advantage of them, get them on board, win them around, and make them feel part of your story journey, but with you clearly in charge.
- Remember you have another life.
Don’t let your book totally consume you. The real world comes first. Make sure that you attend those special events; be there for family and friends. Don’t let your book be your only topic of conversation, even if in your mind, it is. No one wants to hear, “Oh did I tell you about my book” for the nth time. If asked, “How is the book coming along?” initially answer, “Yeah ok actually, I did another 6000 words this week.” Then watch their reaction, if they appear to have moved on then stop there. If they ask more questions, then they are fair game, so hit them with the full lowdown.
- Do not show off.
Just because you are an expert in a subject does not give you the right to prattle on about it at every opportunity. You will lose your reader quickly. As interesting as you might find a subject to be, you should only share sufficient knowledge that will truly enhance your storyline, and no more. Remember that no one likes a show off, but we can still be impressed with the suggestion of being in the hands of an expert.
- Someone else’s story is not your story.
If you copy someone else’s material then you will get caught out for sure. If you are aware of a situation that occurred in real life that could really enhance your story, then use it. But consider getting the owner’s permission, or at least change the names of the characters to protect their privacy.
- If you are not sure of a word then highlight it and come back to it later.
I’m sure that this does not only happen to me, but there are times when a word that perfectly matches what I am writing about just will not come to mind. If this happens to you, do not dwell on it for too long, don’t beat yourself up agonising about it, it will come to you, eventually. I simply write a bland word, highlight it, and then come back to it at another time.
- Do not worry too much about bad grammar or spelling.
Just keep typing and get the story done, you can always perfect it at a later stage. I obviously picked up some really bad habits over the years since taking my O’ Level in English Language. Here are some examples of common errors that I regularly fall guilty of;: Firstly, when using kinship terms such as Auntie or Uncle there are lots of views on which is correct, stick to an acceptable one and be consistent. Secondly, watch out for the overuse of words such as, “so, like, but”. Thirdly, are you American? No? Then do not listen to your American spellchecker, use correct English spellings, especially for words like colour and emphasise. Finally, avoid using “Don’t, won’t, can’t “ use the full spelling, “Do not, will not, can not”.
- Take writing seriously but have fun too.
If you are committed to completing the book, then take it very seriously. Give yourself deadlines to complete pages and chapters, but do not over commit yourself to completing the book by a certain date. If the storyline is not going as expected then consider flipping to another chapter, and come back to it at a later time when you feel inspired to do so. When you are describing a situation you find funny, read it over and over, and do not be frightened to laugh out loud, except maybe if you are in church, or on a bus or train.
- When you think you have finished your story, give a copy to at least three people to read.
I gave a copy of The Last Leaf to a primary school teacher, an ex-college lecturer, and a graduate with a 1st Class honours degree and a Masters in Psychology. Between them, they found many grammar errors, with several common themes appearing. There were also conflicts of opinion amongst the reviewers on deciding the correct protocol to use for kinship names and whether capitals should be used or not. Several embarrassing typos were also found. It is odd that you can spot other people’s typos a mile off, yet you cannot spot your own in a month of Sundays! I assume that if your brain wrote the misspelled word, then maybe your brain sees it spelled correctly, until of course, it is pointed out to you.
Once you have fixed all the errors pointed out to you by your reviewers, go back to the reviewers and ask them to do a final review, you might be surprised how many more they will find.
“You will have to place a small handful of the maggots under your tongue, and must hold them there for a full two minutes,” Jack instructed Isabella . . . .And boy did they wriggle! She struggled not to wretch!
Two worlds collide when a chance meeting brings together Jack and Isabella. Jack, the son of the Head Gardener of the Oakfield Estate, finds himself a friend in the lovely Isabella, the ‘little lady of Oakfield Hall’.
Set in Victorian times in the Southern Counties of England – with an intermittent welsh presence in the form of the Jones’ travelling gypsy family – much laughter, dance, music and cultural challenges lie before the two friends this summer!
How will the delicate Isabella fair among the unfamiliar countryside with its host of creatures and seasonal demands?
Will the rugged, uneducated Jack rise to the challenge of learning to read and write poetry about his beloved countryside – poaching, skinning rabbits and river fishing?
Every day is an adventure and it seems they are meant to be together, always. Or are they?
Read about their exciting adventures and discover the true meaning of friendship with them as they each discover new worlds and new challenges!
Title: The Last Leaf
Author: Gwyn Ellis Pritchard
Release Date: 26th March 2019
Genre: MG Historical
Page Count: 128
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44422485-the-last-leaf
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Leaf-Gwyn-Ellis-Pritchard/dp/1912850257
My name is Gwyn. I am 60 years old, married with two grown up children. I have worked in the IT industry for almost 40 years. Both parents were Welsh speakers preferring to keep their secret language to themselves rather than pass on this heritage to their children.
My Father was an Auditor attached to the British Forces on the Rhine, and we were constantly being moved around from town to town. My early schooling was therefore haphazard, and I struggled to achieve academically in the British Forces education system. So I was sent to Boarding school in Norfolk from the age of ten to sixteen years old. The standard of teaching there was poor and had a very high turnover of teachers as well as pupils. But it was there that I developed my passion for rugby, and at the age of 15, along with a couple of chums, I was invited to play for Diss Rugby Club. I later played for Delyn Rugby club in North Wales for a number of years but sustained too many injuries to take the sport any further.
I have always been interested in storytelling to younger children, being nicknamed “Gwynanory” by one family group who benefitted from me making up stories to fit situations such as; finding a lost teddy, being bullied at school, going to the dentist, or being over excited for Christmas.
I must confess that I am not an avid reader. I do like certain biographies, and I also enjoy crime thrillers. But I mostly enjoy reading about the history of my spiritual homeland in the mid Wales region. I am an impatient reader though. If I do not get the point of the book early enough, or if the style of writing annoys me, then I might just abandon the book and move on to the next one.
The Last Leaf is my first book and I loved writing it. I get quite emotional when I read it back, and then when I do, I wonder if I could have explained a situation better, or added another chapter or two or three. I’m looking forward to carrying on writing and have so many more stories to share.